What's the deal with DeCals?

August 3, 2022

Group of students swing dancing in front of the student book storeHave you heard the term "DeCal" but feel fuzzy on what they actually are? Today, we'll cover these fantastic add-ons to your semester schedule. 

What are DeCals?

DeCal stands for "Democratic Education at Cal" and refers to student-run courses at UC Berkeley. Students create and run their own courses on a huge array of subjects, from the broadly practical to the niche interest. Some recent examples include:

  • Art for Animation
  • Life Skills: Intro to Baking
  • Introduction to Real Estate Investing
  • SwingCal (photo highlights this DeCal)

DeCals are P/NP-only courses and are typically 0.5 - 2 units, making them a popular choice for adding a dash of interest to your schedule or reaching your 13 unit minimum (a note on this below!).

Keep in mind that despite being low in units, some DeCals require a lot of effort and time. Make sure to read about your DeCal thoroughly and attend any information sessions to know what you're signing up for. 

How do I sign up for a DeCal? 

Fall semester DeCals are typically released in mid- to late-August and Spring semester DeCals are released in January (shortly before a semester begins or during the first couple weeks of the term). DeCals often have application deadlines in the second or third week of instruction (remember, the add deadline for courses is the Wednesday of the fourth week of instruction).

To find and enroll in DeCals:

  1. Visit the DeCal course page and filter by courses offered for the current semester.
  2. Click on the DeCal you're interested in and review the instructions for how to enroll. This may include an application or a required information session.
  3. If you are accepted into a DeCal, you will be given a permission code to add the course. 

Note: You may apply to multiple DeCals! If you get into more than you need, contact the instructors of the courses you don't plan to add so they can give your seat to another student. 

Using DeCals to meet your unit minimum...

The biggest mistake students make with DeCals is relying on them to meet their semester unit minimum, especially when financial aid, athletics, or a visa is involved. It is important to know that every semester, we see students who don't get a seat in any DeCal they've applied to. 

If you have fewer than 13 units on your schedule and wish to use a DeCal to get there, we recommend adding a backup course to your schedule while you wait on the result of your applications. We offer a list of recommended 1-2 unit classes in the FAQ on our Semester Schedule Planning page. If you get into your DeCal, you can then drop your backup course--just be sure to make all changes by the add/drop deadline! Current semester deadlines can always be found on our homepage.

Anything else I should know?

  1. DeCals are included in the 16 Special Studies unit limit. You can read more about that on our Degree Requirements page. 
  2. Upper division DeCals can count toward your upper division unit requirement and your upper division outside your major unit requirement (see the Degree Requirements page for more). Just check to see if the DeCal is offered as upper division (#100-199) by checking the course number. Open the DeCal page and look for this information in the top right corner, under the course details. 
  3. There are small fees ($5 or $10) for adding or dropping courses in the first few weeks of instruction. You can read more about those dates and fees on the Office of the Registrar's Enrollment page. 


DeCals are often among students' most loved courses at Cal and a great way to explore a subject outside of your wheelhouse. And if you find the experience inspiring, maybe you'll find yourself teaching one before you graduate!

Back to Discover Opportunities and Connect on Campus

Related articles and media